You claim poetry isn’t “vital.” I will try to explain. A sponge and dish soap are vital to me because they make change in the kitchen. To me, at least, poetry is vital because it has a similar effect on the life of my mind. Robert Frost, who read at JFK’s inauguration, once said that a good poem “ends in a clarification of life–not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.” Frost never enacted legislation. But he continues to provide clarity. Poetry is very helpful to people for whom superstition is not enough.And:
Rejecting a whole genre, too, is critically insolvent unless you’ve experienced it to the point where you distinguish its good parts from its bad. Your complaint isn’t much different from complaints like “I hate hip-hop” or “I hate country”—they are always generalizations, and are almost always made by people who haven’t spent enough time listening. Which makes them irrelevant. Obsolete, even.
2/ Yahoo commissioned some inaugural poems. I shiver at how bad James Franco's is; I think Kevin Young's "Oath" is my favorite.
3/ If I had a spare $3500, and this is if debt and savings were all pretty, I would totally buy this set of Emily Dickinson's envelope poems. How gorgeous.
4/ I love Elizabeth Bishop. I think she is one of my favorite poets ever, let alone canonical or foundational, or whatever you want to call that tribe of poets who have lingered in print and classrooms. Ange Mlinko isn't terribly fond of her, though, and she writes about it in "Safer Than Ambien" on the Poetry Foundation. A snippet:
Actually I don’t like craft that isn’t part of the drama of the poem. Unobtrusive craft, craft that assumes its own naturalization into the order of things, is dissembling.
5/ Penn's MOOC class on Modern & Contemporary Poetry (ModPo) is starting up again September 7th, 2013. I casually visited last time around, and it was hugely and happily popular; if the baby and the toddler lets me, I plan to be more sincere in my efforts this time around. This letter about the program and an autistic student is really lovely.
6/ Erika Meitner writes about her experiences judging a book contest and has some solid advice.
When I told a poet-friend I was screening approximately a zillion manuscripts, she posited that as an initial screener dealing with sheer volume, I would be influenced by the apparent coherence of ‘project books’—that I would gravitate toward sequences of poems because they seemed automatically like books and it would be easier to trust them somehow, though both of us agreed that we, in general, as readers of poetry, prefer books that offer the reader a variance in sensibility and approach. Which leads to my first (potentially false) dualism in here: there are ‘project’ books, and there are ‘mix-tape’ books.Joel Brouwer says some smart things too on the Poetry Foundation. (Thanks to Katrina Vandenberg, whose article on Mix-Tape manuscripts is also very interesting, for the links.) And I can't remember where I stumbled upon this one, but Tupelo Press has some things to say on manuscripts.
7/ I've seen this website quite a few times and will now put it in my sidebar under "charm," but should point it out here too: Underground New York Public Library. I do love it, and I remember each time we visited New York City when my sister still lived there, and I loved, loved looking to see what everyone was reading.
8/ Elisabeth Workman, who is a second year MFA in the program I graduated from, has a book coming out from Bloof Books. Sarah Fox, who defended the same year as me, has a new book out from Coffee House Books. I'm excited to read both; these are strong mama-poets I really admire.
9/ It's taking a while for me to explore, but there's a local (Mpls) group called JoyFace Poetry Collective, which plans to make an exhibit in the now-empty Best of Times Bookstore here in town. Anything that involves the celebration of poetry is generally OK by me, so I hope, between having a baby and such, I'll be able to sneak in and get involved.
10/ These broadsides have gotten a lot of link love lately, and for good reason.
11/ VQR has done a series on what feminism means to particular writers. See Ru Freeman's response here. (I was a participant at Bread Loaf one of her fellowship years.)
12/ Tomas Morin, whose prize-winning first book, A Larger Country, is in my to-read pile nearby, writes on NBCLatino some advice to new writers.
My dancing bears poem came out of reading a flyer from, I think, the World Wildlife Fund that had to do with dancing bears, and I thought “I have to write something about this.” When people are brutal to each other, that feels like a puzzle, because in my mind, I can’t understand how someone can do something that abhorrent to another person. And I think that part of it is trying to work out that mystery in poetry.13/ Emily Dickinson's manuscripts are now "live." Here's some more about the digitized envelopes.
14/ Love these book planters. I've added it to this pinboard so I can rediscover it.
15/ The voyeur in me really enjoys peeking into writer's spaces. Those photographs you see often of writer's desks? Collected so many postcards. Here's a blog post about poet Jennifer Militello's study, which I deeply envy. I actually get a little bleary-eyed when I come upon the photograph of her desk facing the woods in the gloaming.
Additionally, this space is in my mind even when I’m not there. It grounds the work and lets it stay with me even when I’m physically absent. It is a place where things remain as I’ve left them until I return. There is a museum-like preservation so I can come back to re-see the evolution of an idea even when I leave it for a period of time.
16/ Sharon Olds: I adore her. Here are some items that have come up: On The Guardian, "I want a poem to be useful." On BOMB, an interview with Amy Hempl. On Oprah, How to Pull Yourself Up After Heartbreak.
17/ Married couple Suzanne Buffam and Srikanth Reddy won NEAs and did an interview with Art Works. On Balancing the Tide, I had another writing couple do the first interview of the New Year; maybe Buffam and Reddy will consent to do 2013's version.
18/ A visual history of Plath's The Bell Jar. Also related to Plath: FBI Files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet.
19/ My former professor from the U of MN has some cross-stitch poetry in Altered Scale. Some coverage on The Poetry Foundation. (She was also involved in Opal's Poetry Greenhouse launch. On a side note, I can't believe Maya's hair has grown so much since then.)
20/ Article: How reading Shakespeare and Wordsworth offer better therapy than self-help books.
The research also found poetry, in particular, increased activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with 'autobiographical memory', which helped the reader to reflect on and reappraise their own experiences in light of what they had read. The academics said this meant the classics were more useful than self-help books.21/ April 23, 2013: World Book Night.
22/ Some Adrienne Rich: "Permeable Membrane" on VQR. 21 Love Poems (poems and prose) to A.R. on VIDA.
23/ Hmm. The Rejection Generator.
24/ PBS NewsHour has a poetry series, which means I'm probably going to get buried in these clips right after I catch up on my other two dozen links I have left open in various places.